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Things Your History Teacher Didn’t Tell You

American history textbooks typically provide a cursory chapter on the period of the 16th century Spanish explorers of the Southeast and a few sentences to the attempts of French Huguenots to establish a colony in the region. They jump to the failed attempt to establish an English colony on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, then lavish attention on Jamestown, VA and Plymouth Plantation, Massachusetts. The texts then proceed to describe the founding of the various colonies which became the original United States. Very little, if anything, is said about the French and English explorers who ventured into the interior of the Southeast between 1568 and 1700. University level Colonial History courses might go into more detail on these intrepid people, but the general public in the United States never learns about them. Author Richard Thornton shares some interesting facts your history teacher didn’t tell you about early colonial America.

Hernando de Soto Expedition to Georgia

The earliest recorded visit of Europeans to the Georgia and North Carolina Mountains was in 1540.  De Soto’s Conquistadors spent several summer weeks at the capital of Kvse (pronounced Kău-shĕ in Itsate-Creek, but known as Kusa in English.) Kvse means “forested mountains” in Itza Maya. Florida Indians told Pánfilo de Narváez in 1528 that the Apalachee People, who lived in the mountains many days to the north, mined and traded gold. The people, whom the Spanish called Apalache, called themselves the Palache, which is the Creek word for the Biloxi Indians. This is not general knowledge because the media has relied on commentaries about de Soto, rather than actually reading the chronicles. Just before heading north from the Florida Panhandle in 1540, de Soto was told that the capital of the Apalache province in the mountains was named Yupaha. Yupaha means “Horned Lord.” The Florida Indians stated that Yupaha had much gold. De Soto set off to find Yupaha, but his chroniclers never mentioned the town again.  Historians have traditionally assumed Yupaha to be a fable. After leaving Kusa, de Soto passed through the towns of Tali-mochase (New Tali), Itapa, and then, what the chroniclers wrote as Ubahali.  However, this would be a typical manner that Castilians would write the word, Yupaha-le, which is a Coastal Plain Itsate  word meaning “Horned Lord People.”  So Yupaha really did exist.   It probably was the Track Rock archaeological zone, because that is largest known town site in the gold-bearing section of the Georgia Mountains. Add an “s” to Itapa, and you have Itsapa.  This may or may not been the town’s real...

Understanding the Obsession with All Things Cherokee

Many history buffs in the Georgia Mountains are obsessed with all things Cherokee. They assume that Creek place names such as Oconaluftee, Coosa, Oostanaula, Oothlooga, Etowah, Chattooga, Nottely, Yahoola, Enota, Tesnatee, Soque, Nacoochee, Tallulah, etc. are Cherokee words. The myths can all be traced to the presumptions made by the first white settlers to enter the region. That’s right . . . the main river on the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation is an Itsate Creek word meaning “Okonee People – isolated.”  The name has no meaning in Cherokee. The Okonee were major players in the mound-building business, who eventually joined the Creek Confederacy.  They were mainly located in northeastern Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp basin in southeast Georgia. One of the current myths that resulted from this obsession is that the Cherokees occupied all of northern Georgia until 1838. This myth even permeated the archaeology profession until the late 20th century. Prehistoric artifacts were being classified as Cherokee, when they couldn’t have possibly been so.  The fact is that by the time the Cherokees arrived in the Georgia Mountains, they were using muskets and cooking in iron pots.  Approximately 85% of the Native American place names in both the Georgia and North Carolina Mountains are either Muskogean or Maya Indian words. This obsession is ironic for many reasons.  There were only a handful of Cherokees in the extreme northeastern tip of Georgia prior to the American Revolution. It was primarily used for hunting. In 1780 the British Army counted only 25 Cherokee warriors living in the entire province of Georgia.  The Cherokees occupied this small region in 1715 after...

Discerning Facts and Myths About Track Rock Gap

In general, Loubser treated Cherokee legends as possible facts, while not discussing Creek Indian traditions whatsoever. Loubser first described two interpretations of the stone ruins that were provided to him by the staff of the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s Cultural Heritage Preservation Office.  Both interpreted the stone ruins as being burials. One version of this Cherokee legend is that the piles of stone at Track Rock Gap are the graves of great Cherokee warriors. There may be Cherokee burials at Track Rock Gap.  However, no stone burial cairns are associated with any known Cherokee village sites in North Carolina or eastern Tennessee.  There are many stone cairn cemeteries in the Georgia Piedmont. They are either located in territory occupied by the Creek Indians until the land was ceded to Georgia, or areas that the Cherokees only briefly occupied from the 1780s to the early 1830s.  Archaeologists have been able to date only a few of these cairns.  Radiocarbon dates ranged between the Late Archaic to the Middle Woodland Periods (1600 BC – 750 AD.) Another version provided by the EBC Cultural Heritage Preservation Office was that the stone ruins were the burials of thousands of Creek warriors, who were killed when the Cherokees conquered Georgia. The Cherokees did not conquer Georgia. In 1754, they suffered a catastrophic defeat by an army sent by the Creek town of Koweta, at the end of the Creek-Cherokee War. All of the Valley Cherokee towns were destroyed. A Cherokee delegation traveled to Charleston to beg for help from the British Army. Their leaders feared that their entire nation was about to be destroyed....

Interpretation of the Track Rock Gap Petroglyphs

As a major portion of its professional services to the U.S. Forest Service in the year 2000, Stratum Unlimited, LLC prepared graytone renderings of the six main boulders at Track Rock Gap. These renderings will be of incalculable value to the citizens of the United States in the future.  Because they remained exposed to the elements, the petroglyphs deteriorated at an accelerating pace in the early 21st century.  Acidic rainwater is the primary culprit.  The renderings of the Track Rock petroglyphs are presented on a website sponsored by the USFS. Johannes Loubser provided only generalized interpretation of the images on the Track Rock boulders. There are abstract animals and portions of the human body which are obviously that.  As he stated, there is substantial evidence that several ethnic groups carved images on the boulders over a period of many years.  Some images were carved on top of others.  It is his interpretation, or lack of interpretation, of the abstract images, which is questionable.  He provides an explanation that these are merely graffiti created by Cherokee hunters! All of the abstract images on the Track Rock petroglyphs are either standard symbols, utilized by the Creek Indians, or else are Itza Maya glyphs. Most can be seen on the art found around Etowah Mounds and also the Judaculla petroglyphs near Cullowee, NC. The images at Track Rock that are found around Etowah Mounds, are also generally seen in the traditional art of all Muskogean tribes in the Southeast.  Sun Circles and Human Hands: The Southeastern Indians Art and Industries by Alabamans, Emma Lila Fundaburk and Mary Douglass Fundaburk Foreman, contains examples...

Other Missing Stone Archaeological Sites

Inexplicably, Loubser did not mention a major field stone structure complex in Union County that can be seen from the acropolis of the Track Rock terraces in his Appraisal of a Piled Stone Feature Complex report.. This archaeological zone is known as Fort Mountain. It is not the same site as Fort Mountain State Park in Murray County, GA.  It is located at the edge of the Nottely River Valley in the Choestoe Community.  The two sites align on the azimuth of the Winter Solstice sunset.  The plaza of the acropolis is also aligned to this azimuth.  Draw a line from the stone altar on this plaza. Iit will pass through the center of Fort Mountain in Union County, then end up at the center of the Ladds Mountain stone enclosure in Cartersville, GA. Aligned to Track Rock Gap on the azimuth of the sunrise of the Winter Solstice is the Aleck Mountain stone enclosure in the Nacoochee Valley. “Alek” is the Creek word for a medical doctor.  This stone circle was not mentioned in the Loubser Report even though it has been studied by University of Georgia archaeologists. A report about this site was published. Native American occupation of the Track Rock terraces was almost exactly the same as that at Etowah Mounds National Landmark in Cartersville, GA. Etowah is slightly older. Both sites contain fieldstone retaining walls. There was also a complex of circular stone walls and straight walls on Ladds Mountain, overlooking the Etowah town site.  This important coincidence was missing from the archaeologist’s report. Etowah Mounds National Landmark is considered the mother town of the Creek...

Track Rock Gap Archaeological Survey

In the year 2000 the district office of the U. S. Forest Service in Gainesville, GA contracted with South African archaeologist Johannes Loubser to study the Track Rock Petroglyphs. Loubser operates under the professional name of Stratum Unlimited, LLC. Loubser’s published paper on the Track Rock survey was co-authored by Dr. Douglas Frink of Worcester State College in Massachusetts. This article is a brief analysis of that survey.

The Track Rock Terrace Complex

In mid-July, a member of the Unicoi Turnpike Preservation Association,  telephoned me after reading an article that I had written in the Examiner. That particular column was about archaeological sites in western North Carolina.  He was also a member of the Towns County, GA Historical Society.  The Union County-Towns County line runs across the peak of Brasstown Bald Mountain, which contains Georgia’s highest elevation.  Brasstown Bald is immediately to the east of Track Rock Gap. The outdoor enthusiast was primarily interested in what I knew about the use of the Unicoi Turnpike during the Trail of Tears Period (1836-1838.)  The Unicoi Turnpike was a 19th century road that improved an ancient Native American trade path between the headwaters of the Savannah River in northeast Georgia and the confluence of the Tennessee and Little Tennessee Rivers near Loudon, TN.  He wanted to know if I thought it was used to move Cherokees to prison stockades in the summer of 1838. I wanted to talk about the evidence that I had found which indicated that Spanish explorer, Juan Pardo, had used the Unicoi Trail in 1567. I thought perhaps Spanish Jews had followed the trail to settle the Georgia and North Carolina Mountains.  He was only mildly interested that subject, and was primarily focused on preserving the sections of the Unicoi Turnpike that might have been traveled by Cherokees. The Unicoi Trail was outside the Cherokee Nation in 1838, when thousands of Cherokees were being deported.  I told the local historian that I had read some accounts where Cherokees living outside the boundaries of the “Nation” had escaped federal troops by...

Pre Darmos Casada

An inscription on a rock on Hoopers Bald contains the late Medieval Castillian words “PRE DARMOS CASADA – SEP 15, 1615” and an inscription on a boulder at Track Rock Gap contains the name “Liube 1725” a Jewish name… the significance of these inscriptions in South East United States are identified in this article.

The Trail to Yupaha

An AccessGenealogy Exclusive: The Trail to Yupaha – Is Yupaha the Mayan connection to the Indians of the United States? This is a highly contentious look by Richard Thornton at the possibility of a trail he found in the Track Rock Gap area of Georgia being the connection to the Mayan of South America… The History Channel premiered it’s new show “American Unearthed” investigating this very issue. One of the people they interviewed on the show, now tells you in his own words, how this discovery all came about.

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